Watering plants is always such a tricky task to gauge. Here are some of the most relevant things to consider when watering any of your outdoor vegetable plants. If you’re new to being a plant parent, don’t worry, we all struggle with understanding how much water our plants need and when. Trust me, you’ll begin to see the plants react to the water in ways that will help you understand more how much water they need as it is constantly changing. Sounds crazy right? Well, until you become a plant whisperer, here are some general watering tips.
Don’t waste water, so be sure to water where the roots are. This does not mean just watering directly on the center of the plant, it also means part of the surrounding area. It is a general rule of thumb that the roots of a plant probably extend just as wide as the plant itself, sometimes a bit wider. Be sure to water the area of soil directly at the main stem of the plant, but also water the surrounding soil at least to the width of the span of the plant’s leaves.
Don’t over water - how do we gauge this? It is best practice to check the soil before watering. Your fingers are the best way to detect if the soil is dry or moist, you should stick your pointer finger into the soil a few inches. If the soil feels dry, water it. If not, wait 24 hours and check the soil again. When you over saturate the soil with water the plant roots drown and begin to kill new growth. Plants need oxygen just as much as they need water, so before watering again make sure the soil has dried from the day before.
If it rains, you likely won't have to water. Don’t assume that your plants need you to water them everyday, always check the soil especially after a big rainfall.
Watering your plants should be the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning. Oftentimes you’ll read that watering at night is best, but unfortunately if it is not hot enough outside that can create mold on your plants. It can also attract some critters that you don’t want enjoying your vegetables before you do! When you water in the morning, before the sun shines on your garden this will give the plants a chance to dry out throughout the day. DO NOT water in direct sunlight. This can burn holes through the leaves of your plants. If you’re not able to water before 10:00 am, then watering at night may be a better choice for you.
Let the watering be therapeutic for you and your plants. It is best not to rush the watering, you want to be diligent in the amount of water you're providing, but also the way that you are spreading it out across your entire garden. Not only this, but the amount of water your garden needs daily will take time to sink into the soil. Be sure to alternate with where you’re directing the water - or set up a sprinkler and let it run across your garden for 10 minutes evenly.
Capitalize on your water gains. Watering wands, nozzle heads and irrigation systems will help to provide water to the root of the plant rather than wasting water around the rest of your garden. Watering early in the day will also reduce the amount of water you're having to use because less of what you have watered will evaporate.
On days where the sun is very hot and it is difficult to ensure your plants won’t dry out, adding a layer of mulch to the top of the soil can reduce evaporation of water. This will help cover the ground to keep the moisture in and around the roots.